Church members take steps to fight hunger

The skies were cloudy, yet spirits were high as walkers of all ages gathered at Salem Lutheran Church in Catonsville to take part in the annual CROP Hunger Walk.

A national event held in the fall and spring, the Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty walk has been held on the first Sunday in October for 14 years with local churches taking turns serving as the starting point for the 5K walk.

This year, walkers set off from Salem Lutheran at 905 Frederick Road. The church has a history in Catonsville that dates back to 1849.

"My butt hurts," moaned Kelise Harding, 8, as she came near the end of the walk.

She and her friends from Halethorpe Relay United Methodist Church, Eric Jesman,12, and Krystal Goodrich, 14, would be the first to finish the walk, though David Hutton set the pace.

"I let them," Hutton said, of the kids surpassing him at the end.

A veteran of several walks, Hutton didn't mind the cooler weather, though it did have one drawback.

"Usually, there are people out and you can ask about the (football) game," said Hutton, a member of Catonsville Presbyterian Church. "I am giving up a little bit of the Ravens game."

Football has been a distraction in the past, chuckled Dorothy Boulton, associate pastor of Catonsville Presbyterian Church and one of the organizers of the local walk. Often, it is Baltimore's game against t its bitter gridiron rivals from Pittsburgh that tempts participants to stay home.

But no matter the distraction – a football game or rainy weather – the walk usually attracts about 50 walkers, representing an average of 13 churches from Arbutus, Halethorpe, Baltimore and Catonsville.

The local version of the walk typically raises between $7,000-$8,000 in donations a year — for a total of $135,168.03 over the last 13 years, according to Patrick Walker, managing regional director for Church World Service, the group behind the CROP walk.

"That's phenomenal," said Walker, of the amount. "That's really nice."

While the majority of the money raised goes to Church World Service for its programs, 25 percent of the money raised by the walk is available for local charities. The local churches involved with the CROP Walk donate equal sums to three local food banks — Southwest Emergency Services, Catonsville Emergency Food Ministries and 40 West Assistance and Referral Center.

"I think it's great," said John Monck, the director of Catonsville Emergency Food Ministry, on the walk and its donations."It's a nice they donate to local organizations. It helps a good amount."

Ken Kidd, a member of Halethorpe-Relay United Methodist Church, has participated in every one of the local CROP walks.

"I haven't missed one," he said, as he held a steady pace. "This is probably one of the coldest and dreamiest walks. We had some really hot days. This is better."

Always held the first Sunday of October, the CROP walk has started from different locations over the years. Last year, it was held in Lansdowne.

"We try to move it around to include new congregations and neighborhoods," said Rick Powell, pastor of Christian Temple, and a walk organizer. "It's generated a lot of loyalty over the years. People know it is a good thing and an easy thing to do."

"It is meant to be a community event," Boulton said. "We vary it a little bit from year to year. It's nice. There are not many things local churches get together for."

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